Saturday, February 28, 2015

Don Wharton in Concert!

Peter, James, John and the rest were enrolled in Discipleship 101.  Their teacher? The Lord Jesus. They pass the class by answering the question on the final exam: "Who do you say I am?"  Peter answered for the 12: "You are the Christ!"

But after a 101 class there is usually a 102 and the disciples learn that the next class will be more difficult and most challenging.  Join us this weekend to learn more.  I'll be preaching at both the 5 pm Saturday service and the two services on Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.  Christian Life (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour begins at 9:20 am.

And don't miss Don Wharton in concert at LICL on Sunday afternoon at 3 pm.  Don is a singer/songwriter who never fails to bring excitement and humor to all his appearances.  He's easy to listen to and his songs inspire and point to the grace and mercy of God.  The concert is free but an offering in support of Don's ministry will be taken.  Come and join us for a great concert at 3 pm at Life in Christ!

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Pocket Prayer

Father, You are good...

You have given me life, You give me everything to sustain this life, and you do so simply out of Your goodness and mercy which is like no other.

I need help...

I've come to the end of this week and there is still so much to do.  Give me patience and peace so that I don't panic but work with diligence and finish up those things that have to get done today.

They need help...

Have mercy on those who are ill; grant comfort to all who mourn; strengthen faith for all who are being tested; change the hearts of those who lack love and seek selfish ways.

Thank You...

Thank You, Father, for the faith I have received so that I might believe; Thank You, Father, for the hope that I have received which makes life worth living; Thank You, Father, for the love I have received from You - help me to share that love with others today.

In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Thanks to author, Max Lucado, and his book, "Before Amen," for the "Pocket Prayer"

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Who do you take your "cues" from?

We may also doubt or fail to recognize our true status as God's children in the world since too often we take our cues from the world instead of the Word.

Pastor Frank Starr, "Light for the Way - Book One" page 84

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

They say it's George Harrison's birthday

Today, Beatle George Harrison was born (Feb. 25, 1943).  He spent his formative years growing up in this home at 12 Arnold Grove.  The home is on a cul-de-sac of sorts.  It was called a "2 down, 2 up," lay out.  On the lower level was the living room and kitchen; upstairs there were two bedrooms. For a family of six, it was a bit cramped.  But I've read that the lack of space caused the Harrison family to be a tight knit group.

Here I am standing in front of the home.  This picture was taken in 2011 during our European trip. We took the train from London to Liverpool and spent the day at the Beatles Story museum and taking a coach tour to various Beatles sights.  We also visited the Cavern, the place where the group was discovered by future manager, Brian Epstein.

There was a group of about 25 or so on the coach tour and everywhere we got off to take a look at something, pictures had to be taken.  My wife was a bit horrified that we all wanted to have our picture taken in front of Harrison's house.  A family still lives there today and Sherri was disturbed by all the commotion we were making.  On the other hand, how often does a boy from Peoria, AZ find himself in the birthplace of the Beatles.  So I insisted that Sherri take the picture.

I'm glad I did.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The family quiver is becoming fuller

Which is another way to say that my son, Eric, and daughter-in-law, Christina, are expecting a baby in October.

They made their announcement at the dinner table last Sunday and did it so subtly that I missed it.

Suddenly, the table exploded with excitement and I was saying, "Whoa! What's going on? Did I miss something?"

In my defense, the television was on in the background and I don't hear as well as I used to.  However, once I got up to speed, I was happy to join in the celebration.

Eric and Christina are wonderful parents.  The love and care and patience they demonstrate with their daughter, Emily, never fails to impress me.

Will it be a boy or girl? Well, we'll have to wait on that one.  But we thank the Lord for blessing their family and for adding one more grandchild to the family quiver (See Psalm 127:5).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What will you do this weekend?

You've got the whole weekend ahead of you - what will you do? The weather is going to be fantastic.  You could take a hike.  Spend some time at Lake Pleasant.  Start on a landscaping project.  Take the kids or grandkids to the park and have a picnic.  So many possibilities.

Make sure you include worship in your plans.  LICL has a Saturday service that takes place at 5 pm and two Sunday services are held at 8 and 10:45 am (with Bible classes for all ages at 9:20 in the morning).  See you this weekend!

Friday, February 20, 2015

I'm excited!

For some unknown reason I began the morning thinking about the pre-schoolers I got to know while serving as Pastor of Island Lutheran Church on Hilton Head Island, SC.

Once a week I would have a chapel gathering with the kids.  I told them Bible stories.  We prayed for sick Mommies and sick turtles and everything else.  And we sang.

One of my favorite songs was called, "I'm Excited."  Now, I can't remember where I found the song.  I'm not even sure if the melody was one that came with the song or one I made up.  In any event, the kids enjoyed learning and singing this song.

It was upbeat an fast-paced and these are the lyrics:

I'm excited, I'm excited, I'm excited in the Lord
I'm excited, I'm excited, I'm excited in the Lord
I'm excited, I'm excited, I'm excited in the Lord

(A bit repetitive but I should say, I was working with 3 and 4 year olds so we weren't going to take on "A Mighty Fortress is Our God")

When your walking with the Lord, you won't get bored!
When your following the Son, you have more fun!
When your working for the King, you really want to sing!

I'm excited (and then repeat the song)

And they when we got to the last "I'm excited," we all sang, "I'M EXCITED!"

Just thinking about this song makes me excited.  Maybe this morning I'll break out my guitar and teach the song to the "Bulletin Bunch," a group of ladies who fold the 300+ bulletins that we print each week.  The work is pretty mundane.  I'll bet we can get them all EXCITED!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A collect for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent.  Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

From "The Treasury of Daily Prayer," page 26

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What are you giving up for Lent?

How about idolatry? Why put your faith in something other than God? Tullian Tchividjian writes that "we habitually look to something or someone smaller than Jesus for the things we crave and need.  And none of it is ever large enough to fill the void."

How about worry? Why not, as Martin Luther advises, "Call upon God's name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks."

How about a favorite hobby? Especially if it get in the way of worshiping faithfully each Sunday.

How about complaining? Who gets under your skin? Your boss, your coach, your spouse, your parents? Give them a break! What seems like an attempt to get in your way may be a loving concern for you, your life and your plans.

How about anger? Anger will try the evict the peace that God has placed in your heart every time.  God says, "It is mine to avenge, I will repay."

How about lust? There's temptation sitting at that computer, searching for the latest Kim Kardashian attempt to blow up the internet.  Give up the internet instead.

How about deception? The Bible is full of people who tried to deceive others to get what they wanted.  Don't join the list.

How about gossip? How about using the season of Lent to practice this: "Defend (your neighbor), speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way."(Thank you, Dr. Luther)  You think people might notice the difference between you and others who can't wait to share half-truths or tear reputations apart with tongues of fire?

How about dissatisfaction? Yeah, somebody may have stuff that's better than your stuff.  But your stuff is better than the stuff that most people in the world have.  Praise God for the stuff you got.

Monday, February 16, 2015

70 plus!

God greatly blessed our church yesterday.

We had our largest attendance of the year - over 400 for the three services.  PTL!

We had our largest adult Bible class attendance of the year - 81.  PTL!

We had over 70 people who have pledged to pray every day for our church.  PTL!

Have you ever noticed that when you let go of your problems and concerns and give them to the Lord, how much better you feel? I've been much concerned about our church for sometime now.  Last week I realized that I was holding on so tightly to my concerns that they had become worries.  The anxiety was keeping me up at night.

Today I feel much more at peace.  And having 70 plus people praying along with me is so encouraging.

Let go...and watch God's grace and mercy flow.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

At His Best

Peter, James and John got to see Jesus as His best, in all His glory.  By faith, we shall too.  Join us for Transfiguration Sunday.  Saturday service takes place at 5 pm.  Sunday services are held at 8 & 10:45 am. Bible classes for all ages starts at 9:20 in the morning.  Join us!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Gathering the 70

Our Thursday evening Bible study group has been taking a look at Max Lucado's new book, "Before Amen."

The chapters are built around what Lucado calls, "A Pocket Prayer."  The prayer is short, memorable and provide a nice frame work for offering daily prayers.

Lord, You are good
I need help
They need help
Thank You
In Jesus' name, Amen.

In last night's session Lucado (on DVD of course) tells about a trip he made to John Maxwell's former church in San Diego.  While there, Maxwell gave Lucado some insight to the prayer ministry of Maxwell's church.  Lucado came back to his congregation in San Antonio, Texas and implemented the ideas.  He was concerned about the life and health of the church and so he asked for 120 people to commit to praying for the church, its ministries and for himself every single day.

Lucado described the results in the video: increased weekly attendance, increased growth, increased giving, restored health of some in need of healing and so forth.

I prepared the study on Wednesday morning.  Wednesday afternoon I reflected and prayed about what I had heard.  Wednesday evening I resolved to do the same as Lucado did.

So at the end of our Bible study I asked the class if they would become part of the 70.

I'm concerned about the spiritual health of our church.

Weekly attendance in 2015 has fallen slightly behind 2014's numbers.  This has never happened in the history of LICL.

With the additions we've made to our church budget, there are concerns that we are going to bleed red ink this year.

We have spent months and months going over the idea of embarking on a new building project and rather than drawing our congregation together, it seems as if the project has had the opposite effect.

The grapevine has never been more active, spewing out all kinds of hurtful and damaging talk.  And the devil continues his evil work of lying and tempting God's people to disobey His Word.

I'm not willing to just sit aside and watch all of this happen to the church that I dearly love and care for.  

Last night we got started on recruiting 70 people who will pray everyday for the spiritual health of our church.  But I need some more folks who will faithfully pray and ask the Lord for His help for Life in Christ.

If you'd like to become part of the 70, just let me know.  Drop me an email to

Don't be offended by this next statement - please don't respond if you're not willing to pray every day for our church and its people.

It's just that I feel that we need regular, consistent, faithful prayer partners for this effort.

Will God produce the same results for LICL as He did for Lucado's church?

I have no idea.  But this morning I feel so much better that a bunch of people are joining me in turning to the Lord to seek His will and direction for our church.

May God bless us according to His will and for His glory.  Amen.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Gospel-saturated church is...

I've just begun reading a book by Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham and pastor of the Coral Ridge Church in Florida, entitled, "Jesus + Nothing = Everything."  Tchividjian counts among his gospel mentors Rod Rosenbladt, Gerhard Forde and Hal Senkbeil, all Lutheran pastors, theologians and educators.

I really appreciated the following: A gospel-saturated church is a church filled with people who give everything they have because they understand that in Christ they already have everything they need....

What do we really need in this life? Nothing that the world has to give, I can assure you.  The things of this world are passing away.  But Christ gives us everything we need:

Forgiveness for our sins, great and small.

Peace for our troubled hearts.

Light that overcomes the darkness that is all around us.

Hope - for today, tomorrow and for eternity.

Contentment with what we have which is more than enough.

Love that is gratefully received and then is given away.

The Gospel makes us rich.  Martin Luther taught that because we are rich and because we have a God who continues to pour out His riches upon us we, in turn, can give our riches away - forgiveness, peace, hope, love and all the rest.

To whom will you bless today?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A large thought from the Large Catechism

Let me tell you this, even though you know God's Word perfectly and are already a master in all things: you are daily in the devil's kingdom.  He ceases neither day or night to sneak up on you and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against these three commandments (the first three) and all the commandments.  Therefore, you must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears.  But where the heart is idle and the Word does not make a sound, the devil breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware.

Martin Luther, "Large Catechism," 3rd Commandment, paragraph 100

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It's Monday!

No, I'm not confused.  I know today is Tuesday.  But Monday is my day off from work.  So Tuesday always feels like Monday.

Coming into the office on Tuesday is always interesting.  It's obvious that everyone there got started on their stuff 24 hours before.  I always feel like I have to catch up.  It makes for a pretty busy day.

I remember the days when I was essentially an 8 to 5, Monday through Friday employee.  You drove home on Friday and had the whole weekend laid out in front of you.  Maybe there would be pizza with the kids that evening; projects around the house or maybe a basketball or softball game on Saturday; on Sunday you'd go to church and Sunday school, have some family over for dinner, take a nap, help the kids get ready for school and then hit the sack.  Then, "Hello, Monday!"

You've probably heard the old joke about pastors working only one day a week - Sunday? If that were really the case there would be more pastors! No, the pastors I know work many hours each week.  They make many sacrifices to serve their congregations.  I can't remember how many teacher's conferences, games and other events my kids had going while I was off attending a meeting or visiting with a family or sitting at the bedside of a suffering member.

And most pastors do this work gladly.  What can be better than serving the Lord, sharing His gifts of grace, being involved with individuals and families during the times when they need the comfort and reassurance from the Lord the most.  Most pastors do this at any time and at any day of the week.

So I'll be back in the office today.  My daytimer shows a very busy week.  Tuesday-Thursday will be three long days with classes and meetings in the evening.  Lent is just around the corner and that will add to the work load.  A number of folks told me they'd be calling for an appointment this week.  And somewhere during the week Connie, Dan, Ron and I will need to practice some music for Sunday.

I'd better stop typing and get ready for work.  It's going to be a busy Monday, er, Tuesday!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Where were you on Feb. 9th, 1964?

I was 11 years old.  I was sitting in the living room of our houme in Tucson, AZ.  The television was set for the Ed Sullivan Show, a favorite of my Mom and Dad's.  That night, the Ed Sullivan Show would become my favorite.

The radio station we listened to all the time was KTKT, 990 on the AM dial.  It was the station everyone tuned to for the latest rock and roll tunes.  In December the station began playing music from this English singing group, The Beatles.  Every 30 minutes a Beatles song would be played.

Their sound seemed so new, so original.  I knew Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Pat Boone and the like.  The Beatles were different.  Their music had energy.  It made you feel happy.  I couldn't get enough of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

That my parents let me watch them on Ed Sullivan was nearly miraculous.  They didn't know much about the Beatles.  But what my parents knew was enough.  Their music was awful.  Their hair cuts were ridiculous.  My Dad would walk around the house mocking their "Yeah, yeah, yeah's!"

When Ed Sullivan brought them out on stage, I wanted to scream as loud as the studio audience.  The first voice I heard was Paul's.  "One, two, three, four, one, 'Close your eyes and I'll kiss you, tomorrow I'll miss you'..."  As they sang, "All My Loving," I was in awe.  The Beatles looked so cool.  They sounded so brilliant.

I fell in love with music that night.

It's been 51 years since that first appearance on Ed Sullivan.  And in all that time the music of The Beatles still sounds like nothing else.  Their music still has energy.  It still makes me happy.

I've got the DVD set of The Beatles appearances on Ed Sullivan.  I think I'll go and watch them again.  It won't be too hard to imagine.  I'm 11 years old.  I'm sitting in the family living room of our home in Tucson, AZ.  I'll be watching my favorite band on my favorite TV show.  I just might scream with joy.  Brilliant.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What is your favorite day of the week?

Mine is Sunday.  But I'm not telling why.  You'll just have to join us tomorrow at Life in Christ to find out.

Worship happens at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) taking place at 9:20 am.  Or, if you prefer, come and worship with us this afternoon at 5 pm.  Deacon Jerry Klink will do the preaching and the Pat Herman group will provide the music.

Have a wonderful weekend.  See you at LICL!

Friday, February 6, 2015

What is a home?

"Most people have forgotten nowadays what a home can mean, though some of us have come to realize it as never before.  It is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the worlds, a haven of refuge amid the turmoil of our age, nay more, a sanctuary.  It is not founded on the shifting sands of private and public life, but has a peace in God.  For it is God who gave it its special meaning and dignity, its nature and privilege, its destiny and worth."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in Kurt Senske's book, "The Calling," page 130

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What do you want to do when you retire?

My grandson, Luke, has a dream.  So do I.  Someday I want to retire.

I want to live life at a slower pace.

I'd like my life to be driven by something other than a schedule and the demands of others.

I'd like to work with people who are happy with my help instead of working with some that only seek to find in me what they can criticize.

I'd like to volunteer at a place that serves the developmentally disabled.

I'd like to do pulpit supply and maybe teach some Bible classes.  No meetings!

I'd like to have a small home office where I can study without interruption and be able to read for as long as I want.

I'd like to be a helpful "Papa" to my grand kids.

I'd like to travel with my dear, sweet wife.  Or just take long walks around our neighborhood.

Ministry offers more blessings than can be counted.  But it is hard, stressful work.

Those who criticize their pastors have no idea of just how difficult ministry can be.  They are not aware of the emotional energy it takes, day in and day out, to be a pastor.

They also have no idea just how severely most pastors beat themselves up over their perceived flaws and short comings.

Many in my congregation gave me a real emotional boost at my 10th anniversary gathering.  Those people affirmed my ministry.  I thank the Lord that he has surrounded me with so many people who love and appreciate what I do.

So I'll keep going for awhile.  And I'll keep dreaming about retirement.

God, forgive me.  Lord, help me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What do you want to do when you grow up?

This is my oldest grandson, Luke, pictured with the lovely Emily, my granddaughter.

Luke's teacher recently gave his class an assignment, related to Martin Luther King.  She explained to them who Dr. King was and talked to them about King's famous, "I Have a Dream" speech.  She then handed out a paper for them to complete.  In the left column the children were to describe what King's dream was.  In the right column the children were to complete the sentence, "My dream is..."

Here is Luke's dream:

To fly around the world and tell people about Jesus.

If it be the Lord's will, may Luke's dream come true.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I just deleted an article

Earlier today I posted some comments about a story in the local paper that really bothered me.

A book review of "A Warrior's Faith," by Robert Vera speaks of the Arizona connection with the subject of the book, Ryan Job.

The subtitle of the book is: "Navy SEAL Ryan Job, a Life-Changing FireFight and the Belief That Transformed His Life."

The book is published by Thomas Nelson, a company well known for owning a large share of the Christian book market.

I assumed that the book was about Job's Christian faith.

The book review has nothing to say about faith, unless the focus in faith is on one's self.  And it appears that Job overcame an obstacle that would have crushed the spirit in most people.

I assumed that the book review neglected to tell about Job's Christian faith.

So after writing and posting a blog article lamenting what seems to be the fear of Jesus by today's media, I went looking for stories about Job and the book.

I didn't do an exhaustive search.  Just don't have the time.

But the reviews and comments about the book that I did find didn't seem to emphasize a Christian faith.  I couldn't find anything about Job's beliefs about God or Jesus and anything like that.

So I don't know what kind of book "A Warrior's Faith," really is.

You know what they say about the world, "assume?"

I made an assumption, wrote on that assumption, but now I'm not sure that what I wrote was accurate.

So I deleted the article.

Learned a lesson.

Don't write about you don't know about.  Get the facts first.  Get the facts straight.

Seems like those were the rules I learned when I took journalism classes in college.

Too bad I didn't remember them this morning.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Superbowl Highlights

Best Meal before the Game - served at my house by my dear, sweet wife.  Yesterday was my mother-in-law's birthday so Sherri fixed her Mom's favorite meal - roast, mashed potatoes, veggies, salad and rolls.  Not real flashy but oh, so good.  Also, we didn't have a two hour wait like all the poor folks who were at Westgate and thought they'd grab a quick bite.

Best Entertainment before the Game - The Kitty Bowl.  My mother-in-law suggested that we DVD this show because the grandkids would enjoy watching it at some future date.  Sounded pretty good to me.  So we decided to check out the first few minutes and nearly got hooked.  Cute kitties doing cute kitty things - very entertaining.  But then we regained our wits and turned back to...

Best Golf Tourney in town - The Waste Manangement Phoenix Open.  Tiger was missing.  Phil was missing.  And still, it was an exciting finish with a first time winner.  And finally, the Chamber of Commerce got some great Valley of the Sun winter weather for the rest of the country to see.

Super Bowl with two teams that I don't care about - this one.  I've always disliked New England ever since they bounced the St. Louis Rams out of the 2002 Super Bowl.  I was certain that Kurt Warner and the "Greatest Show on Turf" would win their second Super Bowl in three years.  Didn't happen. And since Seattle is in the same division as our Arizona Cardinals, well, how could I root for them?

Best Super Bowl Commercial - Budweiser's "Lost Puppy" commercial.  Budweiser does it again!  They told a Disney movie in about 60 seconds.  The puppy in peril, the rescue by the Clydsdales and the reunion with puppy and owner - so well done!

Best Super Bowl Halftime Show - not this one.  I am definitely in the "too old" category.  I don't know much about Katy Perry and I couldn't understand a word she sang.  The backup dancers in those costumes - just weird.  Dancing dolphins? It was a spectacle but I would have much preferred Sir Paul McCartney (who, by the way, was at the game!).  On the other hand, my son and daughter-in-law absolutely loved the show, so, what do I know?

Worst Play Call in the History of the Super Bowl - Pete Carroll's decision to pass on the one yard line. You had Marshawn Lynch in your backfield.  The guy ran for over 100 yards.  Surely he could gain one more yard, right? Instead, Seattle decided to pass.  The ball was intercepted and New England, on the brink of losing another Super Bowl, pulled out an improbable victory.

Best Announcer - Chris Collingsworth.  NBC had every one of their big guns there but Collingsworth consistently made the game interesting with his insights.  He's also not afraid to make the tough comment.  He did not hesitate expressing his dismay at the play call by Seattle on New England's one yard line.

Most Valuable Player - Julian Edelman.  Sorry, Tom Brady.  The short, quick and tough wide receiver so well against the vaunted Seattle defense.  Edelman made one clutch play after another.  His key third down catch, after getting his bell rung by a Seahawks defensive back, kept a crucial drive going for New England.  Wow! Edelman wasn't going to let his team lose.

Well, that's it from me.  Only 364 more days until the Arizona Cardinals play in Super Bowl 50 (Well, I can dream, can't I?).